"The people who give you their food give you their heart" - Cesar Chavez

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Fried Zucchini Blossoms...A la Cefalicchio

One the my favorite things to eat while working at Cefalicchio was their fried zucchini flowers. A traditional Puglian dish - I was thrilled to find the bright, delicate zucchini blossoms at the Embarcadero Farmer's Market. These are delicious, simple, and...well...addictive. If you don't eat cheese, you can stuff these with soft tofu.
Fried Zucchini Blossoms

1 bunch of zucchini blossoms
Cheese curds
Goat Cheese
Feta cheese
Whole wheat flour
Soda water
Sea salt
Vegetable oil

1. Gently wash the zucchini blossoms and lay out on a dish cloth to dry. Carefully open the leaves and remove the stamen.
2. Heat the vegetable oil in a wok over high heat.
3. Put the flour in a bowl. Slowly pour in the seltzer water until you have a thick but smooth consistency.
4. Gently stuff the zucchini blossoms with the variety of cheeses. I prefer to not mix the cheeses, but use one cheese type per blossoms. Holding the stuffed blossom by the top of the petals, lather them them in the flour-soda batter.
5. Place the battered and stuffed zucchini blossom in the piping hot oil. It should fry on each side for about 30 - 45 seconds. When lightly golden on each side, remove and place on a paper towel or dish cloth. Sprinkle with salt. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Nichole's Garlicky Pesto

My roommate, Nichole, recently made a delicious and very garlicky pesto spread. Delicious with steak, on crackers and certainly far superior to any store bought pesto. I'd love to have this on angel pasta with shrimp and cheese. Nichole's pesto is loosely based on this pesto recipe - with significant substitutions due to ingredient availabilities. Because this pesto has a rather strong garlic under tone, I recommend eating it with a light whipped cheese, sweet tomato slices, avocado or tangerine. I think the pesto was perfect however Nichole did say that if she makes this again, she would add a dash of fresh lemon juice.
Nichole's Garlicky Pesto

1 1/2 cups
4 cloves garlic
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons goat cheese
1/8 cup almonds
Dash of salt and pepper

1. Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until desired consistency.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Healthy Zucchini Bread with Farina di Castagne

If it isn't already obvious - I'm on a bit of a quick bread craze. And the one over arching theme has been to find healthy substitutes for classic American quick bread recipes. When I was working at Cefalicchio this past summer I made zucchini bread with zucchinis from their garden for the guests and the guests all thought it was so exotic. Zucchini bread is a very American dish. It is delicious, especially with pieces of chocolate and similarly to banana bread, there is a lot of room to make it healthy. In Italy, I often made desserts using farina di castagne - which is flour of chestnuts. It's a delicious flour that gives an almost spicy taste to any sweet. It is tricky to work with though because unless the recipe is designed around the chestnut flour - this nut flour should be treated differently and requires different levels of liquid measurements to retain moisture. I am still on the prowl for a comprehensive site that describes how to properly substitute the plethora of flours.

Healthy Zucchini Bread with Farina de Castagne.
(Makes two loafs)

3/4 cup farina di castagne
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 eggs
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup olive oil
1 heaping teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 cups shredded zucchini (12 ounces)
1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup flax meal
1/3 cup raisins
Pumpkin seeds to garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter and flour two loaf pans.
2. Mix the farina di castagne, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, flax meal and baking soda in a mixing bowl.
3. In a separate bowl beat the eggs and mix with the honey, olive oil, lemon rind, almond extract and sugar. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until incorporated. Mixture will be tough and dry.
4. Add in the shredded zucchini and, as you mix, the moisture will be extracted from the zucchini and make the batter more manageable.
5. Add in the chipped nuts and raisins and mix just until combined.
6. Pour batter evenly into two loaf pans. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds.
7. Bake for 40 - 45 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Mango Banana Bread

I've definitely been on a quick bread kick. First it was the compost muffins, then the banana bread with flax meal, now brought to you with the world's number one consumed fruit....MANGOES. It's pretty much a guarantee that I will love anything with mangoes. The mango adds a gorgeous color to this bread and the fruity texture is a pleasant surprise. Baked mangoes are delicious - as tested in the strawberry mango crumble, mangoes are sweet enough to add flavor but not too pungent where they will contrast negatively with other fruits or vegetables. You can definitely add nuts to this - I just didn't have any. I would recommend Brazil nuts or pecans. Enjoy!

Mango Banana Bread
(Makes two loafs)
1/3 cup coconut flour
2/3 plus 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup flax meal
3/4 cup oat bran
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsps cinnamon
3 ripe bananas
2 cups mango chunks
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
1 cup soy milk
2 eggs
1/4 tsp almond extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheight, butter two loaf pans.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, flax meal, oat bran, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
3. In a separate bowl mash the bananas, add in the mango chunks, dried cranberries, soy milk, eggs and almond extract. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until incorporated.
4. Spread the batter evenly into the loaf pans.
5. Bake for 45 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Spring Pepper Stir-Fry

 There are so many colorful peppers at the farmer's market these days it's rather exciting! For a quick, easy, healthy, satisfying meal - the wok will be your best friend. Some friends were over for dinner and we had this beautiful seasonal stir-fry over a bed of quinoa with a side spinach salad. Along with a glass of white wine - it was a perfect evening meal. There isn't much to this dish - it's just having really good ingredients. One important thing to keep in mind when making this is because there are so many ingredients that need to be prepped - it is key to slice or cut them so that they are all the same size, or as close to as possible. I know I bring it up all the time, but I am seriously obsessed with the Saturday Embarcadero Farmer's Market in SF. The selection is truly incredible. It is hard to go wrong. I made this dish vegetarian, but you can easily add chicken.

Spring Pepper Stir-Fry
(Makes 4-5 generous servings)

5 garlic bulbs, minced
2 red bell peppers, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
1 orange bell pepper, sliced
3/4 cup sugar snap peas, ends removed
1/2 cup firm tofu, cut into matchsticks
1 fennel bulb, sliced
1/3 cup corn kernels
3 eggs
Vegetable oil
Lemon Juice
Ginger oil

1. Heat vegetable oil in the wok over medium heat and add the garlic. When garlic is brown and fragrant, add the fennel and stir-fry for 1 minute. 
2. Add in the tofu and season with turmeric and a dash of ginger oil. Stir-fry for about 2 minutes, or until tofu starts to brown slightly.
3. Add in the bell peppers, snap peas and corn kernels. Season with more turmeric and garlic powder (optional). Drizzle some fresh lemon juice and the ginger oil over the vegetables. 
4. In a separate skillet, over medium high heat, add some olive oil and crack the eggs and scramble until cooked through. 
5. Add the scrambled egg to the vegetable stir-fry. Squeeze on some more lemon juice, sprinkle some turmeric. Battam bing batta boom. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Chocolate Tantric Pie

I recently made this pie for my friends at a birthday celebration. It's from the Esalen Cookbook. In many ways, I think it's a dream to go to the Esalen Institute in Big Sur and take cooking classes. But while I wait for that to happen, I might create my own mini Esalen sanctuary in my kitchen. The cookbook is beautiful with stories to accompany every recipe. Chocolate pies are usually too sweet or too dense for me, so I was excited to find this recipe incorporating two of my favorite ingredients: cayenne and ginger! The pie takes on a different taste where the sweet is complimented by the kick of cayenne and the tangy chewiness of ginger. This is also a step in the right direction of a healthy pie - I used a whole wheat crust from Rainbow Co-op and it tasted delicious! Enjoy my friends!...it tastes particularly good with ginger ice cream..mmmmmm
Chocolate Tantric Pie

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chipped almonds
1 cup chopped candied ginger
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 whole wheat pie crust

1. Over medium heat, bring the whipping cream to a simmer in a one quart saucepan. Stir continuously to prevent scorching on the bottom. 
2 Whisk as you slowly pour the chocolate chips into the cream and continue to stir until all the chocolate is melted. Stir in half the almonds and half the ginger. Stir in the cayenne pepper. 
3. Pour the chocolate tantric mixture into a pre-baked pie shell. 
4. Sprinkle the remaining almonds and ginger on top. Cool until firm. Slice and serve :)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Strawberry Mango Cumble

This Strawberry Mango Crumble's taste was way superior to it's photogenic capabilities. Basically, I couldn't get a pretty picture of this crumble - as is typically the problem with desserts that are gooey. They end up looking like messes but I think we can call agree that messes are often the tastiest foods. (Remembering the Mess meals at Millie's Diner in Richmond, VA).
My roommate, Nichole, was returning from a weekend at Pescadero Beach and pulled over to a roadside stand selling massive amounts of strawberries at the kind of prices you can only get when at a strawberry farm. I came home and our refrigerator bottom shelf was filled with about 10 pints of strawberries. Whenever I think of strawberries, I am reminded of the DJ from Wild 94.9 FM yelling "Strawwww...berry!" For some reason he went by Strawberry? If anyone can shed some light on this that would be much appreciated. On a relaxing Sunday evening, my roommates Nichole and Mallika were preparing a delicious dinner and I contributed this Strawberry Mango Crumble to our meal. I adapted it from this recipe by Giada de Laurentiis. Here is another bad picture of it:
Strawberry Mango Crumble

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
2 pints strawberries halved
1 1/2 lbs mango chunks (I buy them frozen from Trader Joe's)
1/2 cup light brown sugar

2/3 cup flour
2/3 cup oats
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup, half a stick, unsalted butter, chilled and chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place rack in the center of the oven.
2. Butter an 8" x 8" baking dish.
3. For the filling, in a medium bowl whisk together the lemon juice and flour until smooth. Add the strawberries, mangoes and brown sugar. Gently toss until the fruit is coated. Move into the baking dish.
4. For the topping, combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, walnuts, cinnamon and salt. Using your hands, add in the chilled butter and mix until you have small clumps the size of peas. Sprinkle the topping over the filling.
5. Bake for 40 -45 minutes until the filling is bubbling and the top is light golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes. Enjoy with ice cream or whipped cream...or both :) 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

We started getting Farm Fresh To You deliveries every other Tuesday and it has become the one of the highlights of the week. You never know what is going to arrive, all you know is that it will be seasonal and beautiful. Last week we received 3 stalks of rhubarb. I picked up some beautiful strawberries from the farmer's market and made this pie on a breezy Sunday evening. I realize that I have only ever eaten rhubarb in one form: pie form. When preparing rhubarb it has a very strong and pungent smell. I am not sure it would taste particularly pleasing without the sweetness of strawberries in the pie. I wonder if rhubarb can be made into a wine or perhaps a moonshine?  I would like to try rhubarb in forms other than pie, please share if you have any recommendations!
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

2 cups chopped rhubarb
2 1/4 cups sliced strawberries
8/9 cup sugar
A little less than 1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Zest of half a lemon
1 whole wheat crust (I purchase these frozen from Rainbow Coop)
Crumble Topping:
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup (half stick) butter chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. In a bowl, combine the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, zest and cinnamon.
3. Pour mixture into thawed pie crust.
4. In a bowl mix the flour, salt, walnuts, brown sugar and butter with your heads until small clumps form. Sprinkle topping evenly over pie filling.
5. Bake in the center of the oven for 15 minutes. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for an additional 20 minutes. Remove and let cool for 10-15 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream :)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Whole Wheat Penne with Masses of Broccoli, Green Olives, and Almonds

For my 24th rotation around the sun I prepared a feast for my closest friends that included tomato and herb cheese bruschetta, a fruit bruschetta, a huge salad, this big pasta dish, a wonderful birthday cake, and a tantric chocolate pie (recipe coming soon). My good friend gave me this fabulous cookbook, Vegetarian Suppers, by Deborah Madison and I had found this delightful recipe for a simple penne pasta with broccoli that I slightly modified for my birthday feast. I went to the farmers market on Saturday morning and was able to get my hands on some sweet fresh dark green broccoli for this dish. I didn't add any cheese but I put a chunk of Parmesan on the table for people to help themselves.
I love cooking for my friends - they are so nice about allowing me to take tons of pictures before letting them actually start eating. I try to be fast about the picture taking so the food doesn't go cold but it's not always easy to quickly get a good picture. I like this one of the table setting:
Whole Wheat Penne with Masses of Broccoli, Green Olives, and Almonds
(Serves 8 generously)

2 large onions, diced
Olive oil
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup almond slivers
1 1/2 cups pitted green olives, torn apart
2/3 cup oregano
1 cup raisins
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
4 lbs broccoli, cut into small florets, stems peeled and diced
1 1/2 lbs whole wheat penne
A chunk of Parmesan for the table

1. Heat olive oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes - until they are golden.
2. Add the garlic, almonds, olives, oregano, and raisins and turn the heat to a low setting. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a dash of salt, throw in the broccoli florets and stems and cook just until tender but so that they retain bite - about 5 minutes. Scoop them out and add them to the pan with the onion mixture with a little bit of the water.
4. Add the pasta to the boiling water. When it is cooked drain it and return it to the pot. Toss with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Divide among the pasta bowls and add the vegetable topping in generous amounts on top.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Healthy Banana Bread with Flax Meal

I had no idea banana bread was so versatile until I started really experimenting with it. This whole health-ifying baked goods was inspired by my roommate, Nichole's, compost muffins. Learning how to properly incorporate flax meal and understand flour substitutions has opened many doors in the realm of baked goods and quick breads. One flour I have recently enjoyed experimenting with is coconut flour. It has more fiber than enriched white flour and it is gluten free if you are ever cooking for people with gluten allergies. I always loved banana bread but it is easily made too sweet and more of a dessert than a solid feel-good breakfast. This banana bread tastes delicious and can be a dessert, however, more importantly, it can be a great start to your morning. My two good friends, Natalie and Maxine, and I recently went to the Carnival festival in the Mission. We picked up some plantains on our way home and made it a night of banana bread and plantains. Basically we love bananas. I was out of eggs and the quick-mart under my apartment was closed so I went to the bar downstairs and they gave me two eggs in exchange for a promise of warm banana bread upon completion. I followed through on the promise and now I never need to worry about not having eggs! Here is a picture of Natalie, Maxine and I on a stoop at the festival before banana bread time:
Healthy Banana Bread with Flax Meal
(Makes 2 loaves)

1/3 cup coconut flour
2/3 cup plus 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup flax seed - meal
3/4 cup oat bran
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp + 1 pinch baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
2 ripe bananas
1/3 cup almond butter
2 apples, shredded
1 cup craisins
1 cup Brazil nuts, chopped
3/4 cup soy milk
2 eggs
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds

1. Preheat the over to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly butter two loaf baking pans.
2. In a large bowl mix together the flours, flax meal, oat bran, brown sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
3. In a separate bowl mash the bananas and add the shredded apple, soy milk, eggs and almond extract. Whisk until the eggs are beaten. Add in the almond butter  and mix until incorporated.
4. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Add in the chopped nuts and craisins and incorporate.
5. Pour mixture into two loaf pans. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds. Bake for 35-45 minutes. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Nichole's Compost Muffins (aka Energy Breakfast Muffins)

My awesome roommate, Nichole, made these delicious and healthy muffins for a recent camping trip with her family. Lucky for me - her fam didn't eat them all so I got to try the left overs and they were fantastic! They are whole grain, feel-good muffins. Her recipe has been adapted from this Bob's Red Mill recipe. I learned from Nichole that in order to get the nutrients from flax seeds, they have to be ground up into flax meal. Ground Flax seeds are a good source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids. You can buy flax seeds and ground them yourself, as we do, or you can buy the flax meal. The nutrients in ground flax seeds are more easily absorbed. HERE is a great source of information on flax seeds. These muffins taste great alone or with some peanut butter. My friends, Natalie & Maxine, love these muffins with a spread of butter too. Enjoy!

Nichole's Compost Muffins
(Makes about 15 muffins)

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup brown flax meal
3/4 cup oat bran
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp maple cream
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups finely shredded carrots (about 3 carrots)
2 peeled and shredded apples (about 2 apples)
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup vanilla soy milk
2 beaten eggs
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, flax  meal, oat bran, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
3. Stir in the carrots, apples, raisins and nuts. Combine milk, beaten eggs and maple cream. Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients. Stir until ingredients are moistened. Do not over mix.
4. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full. Sprinkle pumpkin seeds on top. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Cool, enjoy.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Spicy Cheese! ....another reason to LOVE California

 I recently had the pleasure of sampling (multiple times) this delicious and surprisingly spicy habanero jack cheese from the Sonoma Cheese Factory.  Buy it HERE.

Disclosure: Apologies for the semi-blurry picture - this was taken about 2 hours into a wine tasting...
The habanero kicks in about 3 seconds into the cheese tasting. The jack is otherwise perfectly creamy to help offset the habanero.

Some ideas for good uses for this cheese include:
  • Shredding and using as a topping for fried fish tacos
  • Shredding and using in a corn bread
  • Quesadillas
  • On crackers with a dollop of sweet peach chili sauce or honey (or some sweet sauce)
  • Topping on tortilla soup
  • Topping for nachos with extra guacamole   
And here are some awesome recommendations from my cousin Megan <3
  • shredded on top of taco salad
  • used with rice and chicken in a stuffed poblano pepper
  • in enchiladas! yum!
  • maybe paired with a sharp green apple? Could be interesting..
Any one feel up for a visit to the Sonoma Cheese Factory?